Articles by Darren Read
This year has brought about changes in virtually every sector. As with other frontline industries, the security sector has been tested more than those able to move entirely to remote working. While the promise of a vaccine means an end is in sight, the post-COVID era will not bring with it a return to the ‘normal’ we knew before the pandemic. Organisations have adapted, becoming more resilient and agile and this will have lasting effects. The coming months will continue to be testing. The tiered system will see the precautions in place fluctuate with the situation. Initial lockdown period At the same time, a gradual return to normal as the vaccine is rolled out will require adaptive measures. The security sector will be at the heart of keeping people safe throughout this process. The initial lockdown period and the first wave of panic buying might seem like a lifetime ago. However, the introduction of the second lockdown in November was accompanied by another wave of stockpiling despite organisations trying to reassure their customers. It is uncertainty that breeds anxiety, and we continue to see this as the restrictions fluctuate across the country. The tier system depends upon a number of factors: case detection rate, how quickly case numbers are rising or falling, positive COVID-19 test numbers in the general population, pressure on the NHS in that region, and local context and exceptional circumstances. Social distancing measures For the sector to meet demand, technology will be needed to work alongside the manned guarding role While travel is allowed in all tiers if necessary for work, government advice still recommends that those able to work from home should do so. This means that throughout the country, many buildings will remain empty or at minimal capacity for some time to come. Security risks vary with the restrictions in each area. Although shops are largely open, tier three still requires the closure of many premises. Vacant premises are more vulnerable to theft and damage, meaning officers and security technology remain in higher demand than usual. As more premises are allowed to open, the need for officers to implement social distancing measures increases, stretching the sector like never before. For the sector to meet demand, technology will be needed to work alongside the manned guarding role. Temperature checking devices It will continue to be important in providing security when officers cannot be present in person through CCTV and sensors. But it will also be integrated into the manned guarding role to streamline processes. We are already seeing the start of this as many officers are using handheld temperature checking devices to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We’ll also see temperature scanners installed into buildings to allow security guards to focus on other priorities. Those businesses that are open will need to continue to adapt to the changing regulations in the coming months. Christmas is a busy period that stretches the retail sector. Unpredictability results in heightened stress levels and makes it more difficult for people to reliably take in and recall information. Security officers are a key first point of contact both to enforce measures and reassure anxious staff and members of the public. Enforcing one-way systems Security staff will need to keep members of the public safe and prevent disruption Some shops are enforcing one-way systems and limiting the number of customers allowed inside. Over Christmas, many more may choose to do so. Security officers will be responsible for ensuring these precautions are followed. With the heightened pressure of the festive period, it can be hard to predict how members of the public will respond to officers enforcing measures. Security staff will need to keep members of the public safe and prevent disruption. Doing so will require tact and empathy in dealing with customers. Within shops, too, officers will be tasked with ensuring social distancing and other measures are followed effectively. Doing so, they must work closely with clients to understand what protocols are in place and how to handle a breach. They must also be able to enact discretion. For example, clients may not take issue with protocols being broken momentarily or accidentally. Extensive government guidance There is extensive government guidance on the precautions that should be taken on various premises. They include the introduction of one-way systems and limiting building capacity. Measures such as one-way systems may be broken by those that don’t notice or don’t care. Officers must be able to judge what responses are appropriate while maintaining a calm and reassuring presence. The security officer role has long been moving toward a more front of house position as, for many visitors to a building, they are the first point of contact. The pandemic has accelerated this trend. Working on the frontline of the pandemic, officers have had to play a more multifaceted role than ever before. Officers still act as deterrents and manage security issues, but they must also use empathy and strong communication skills to inform and reassure customers and staff onsite. Adapting to new technology They will need to be able to learn quickly on the job and adapt to new technology and practices Being able to demonstrate this flexibility and to read a situation and react appropriately will be some of the skills most in demand in the industry in the future. Officers will need to build close working relationships with clients. In addition, many will have new roles, such as taking temperatures with handheld devices. They will need to be able to learn quickly on the job and adapt to new technology and practices. Technology, too, will be more important. If the global pandemic has driven any point home, it is that we cannot always see or sense threats. Data-driven insights Temperature checks and occupancy sensors will be the norm in protecting from COVID, while security technology and data-driven insights will continue to grow in popularity. The security sector specialises in adapting to the unexpected and the threatening. It continues to demonstrate incredible value through the pandemic. While the coming months will undoubtedly be trying, the sector is adapting. Lessons have been learned from the pandemic that will affect business globally. Security specialists are taking these on and creating a stronger and more effective industry.
The early stages of the reopening of the British economy are underway following the Government’s announcement in mid-May that some people could return to work if they were unable to work from home. Workers in manufacturing and construction are among the first to return to the workplace, with other industries on standby. Should the data from the easing of the lockdown allow it, other businesses are gearing up to reopen at the start of July. Security has a pivotal role to play in mitigating the risk of infection and contamination as people return to the workplace. However, before exploring that, I want to highlight the fantastic work that the industry has been doing throughout this crisis. Security officers Security officers across the country have demonstrated the importance of their work time and again in recent weeks. Even when offices and shops have been closed, security personnel have been going about their usual duties in protecting assets and securing premises. At Amulet, part of our business continuity planning had been to prepare for possible staff shortages, but the commitment of our teams to carry on with their roles has been amazing. But as workplaces start to become occupied again, officers will face new challenges which we all need to be ready for. Officers will face new challenges which we all need to be ready for Security officers are often the people that process the entrance and exits to buildings. This will now need to be done with social distancing in mind. Each workplace and building might have a slightly different set up in terms of how they will address social distancing, including tape on the ground to measure 2-metre distances, rope to help enforce one-way systems, and the opening of additional entrances and exits to a building. Checking temperatures Officers may also be responsible for checking the temperature of occupants as they enter using hand-held scanners, and for signing people in and out of a building to reduce the need for each person to come into contact with a logbook or touch-screen visitor management system. While it’s hoped that the vast majority of people will understand and respect the need for new systems, this is a stressful time for everyone and tempers can get frayed. Officers must be trained on how to manage confrontation. For example, a company may state that anyone with a temperature over 38.5 degrees cannot enter the building. An occupant might measure a fraction over and ask that they be allowed to enter. Security officers will need to be strict in reinforcing the rules and how to remove someone from a building if they do not comply. This could be a delicate situation so a strong relationship between security staff and the client is essential. Security as brand ambassadors This goes alongside the continued role of security officers as brand ambassadors. This is arguably even more important now as officers still need to be just as welcoming and helpful when working within the new restrictions. Just as important as officers looking after building occupants is that employers look after their officers. Even with social distancing, they are going to come into closer contact with more people than most professions, and will also be using high-risk touchpoints more frequently, such as door handles and reception areas. We fully expect face masks to become a requirement for buildings We fully expect face masks to become a requirement for buildings, whether that’s from government advice or the decision of individual businesses. As such, we have supplied full plastic visors to all of our security personnel as well as other PPE. We’re also regularly communicating with teams to remind them on best practice for the safe use and maintenance of PPE. PPE and security Even before this crisis started any PPE that we issued was accompanied by full training and a sign off procedure. It’s a vital step in being able to track the usage of equipment and making sure that it’s being used appropriately. It’s important to communicate with clients about PPE too – depending on the sector, clients may have different reactions to the need for PPE. The rail clients we work with are by nature more risk-averse and so are fully on board with security officers wearing PPE. They are doing everything they can to improve safety and hygiene in a high footfall environment. With other clients it may take a little more education and encouragement, especially around understanding HSE guidance. It’s understandable that some clients may think a full plastic visor is overboard for a small office building; this is again where having a strong relationship will be so beneficial. Getting clients on board will make it easier for them to communicate to building occupants about the security protocols in place, and why they have been implemented. The challenge of retail Crowds will need to be very carefully managed and stores will have to work together to maintain social distancing One sector that might be particularly challenging for security personnel is retail, especially shopping centres. Crowds will need to be very carefully managed and stores will have to work together to maintain social distancing outside of their doors. But the same basic principles will apply – wearing PPE, educating clients on HSE guidelines and agreeing on and enforcing social distancing measures. High-end boutique shops bring their own challenges. While security officers will not have to deal with high footfall, they will need to balance the enforcement of security measures with the requirement of providing a welcoming experience to customers keen to spend after months of lockdown. It’s likely that some potential customers will be wearing face masks, which would usually be a huge red flag for an officer at a luxury retail boutique. Now, they’ll have to judge the situation in a completely different way with the worry of losing a big sale if the customer doesn’t get the welcome they expect. As always, security personnel must work on this with the client to agree on what procedures to follow. The role of security in mitigating the risk as businesses reopen cannot be understated. With so much to consider, conversations with clients must start now to ensure that everything is in place for when the time comes.
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